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STYLE & CULTURE | AL MARTINEZ

Time to call up the cleaning brigades

October 13, 2003|AL MARTINEZ

Now that California has been conquered, I mean liberated, by another kick-butt Republican, and no minds of mass improvement (MMI) are likely to be found, we turn our attention once more to the other triumph of manly intrusion: Iraq.

George W. Bush jumped into the Middle East the way Arnold Schwarzenegger jumped into America's Star-Struck West, with guns firing and flags flying, and declaring victory after very little opposition. But now Bush has learned, as the Arnold might, that it isn't all that easy.

The conquest of Iraq has created problems that none of the myopic, gung-ho D.C. lounge warriors anticipated in America's unprecedented preemptive invasion. Ignoring the U.N. and a lot of voices of restraint, we kicked open the door and swaggered in like Billy the Kid, with only England following along like an obedient puppy.

While some Iraqis may have welcomed us with open arms -- visions of Yankee dollars dancing in their heads -- others have expressed their displeasure with bombs and bullets, turning that newly freed land into a nightmare of violence, muting the songs of triumph we sang as we marched in. There is no victory while people are still dying.

Only now have we turned to the rest of the world for help in "stabilizing" Iraq, but once dismissed as unnecessary, those nations able to help aren't exactly falling all over themselves with offers of assistance. We chose to go it alone, and now we are alone, Billy the Kid with his pants down around his ankles, crying for suspenders.

The billions we pour into rebuilding the damage we've done in the so-called liberation will be the billions taken from educating our own children, caring for our own elderly, housing our own homeless and feeding our own poor. Only the contractors hired to restore what we destroyed 6,200 miles away will benefit.

The very reasons we went to war, because Iraq was producing weapons of mass destruction and because Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda, have proved little more than smoky illusions conjured up by a group of very bad magicians in Washington. Now we're saying that there probably is no connection between Hussein and Al Qaeda, and no WMD have been found.

A report on our inability to locate them came most recently from chief U.S. weapons hunter David Kay, who told Congress that, well, they didn't find anything, but, who knows, with a $600-million boost to continue looking, something might turn up. Actually, the searchers did locate a single vial of poison that could be used in a weapon, but one vial just ain't worth yodeling about.

During Kay's testimony, much of it drowned out in Schwarziland by groupie screams for Ah-nold, someone suggested that weapons of mass destruction might have been disguised as everyday household objects and might therefore still be hidden in unsuspected and seemingly innocent places.

While some may consider the assertion a lame effort to cover the fact that there simply are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, I say whoooaaa there, Kemo Sabe. How do we know it's a ploy to save the president's popularity ratings?

Have we unscrewed every light globe to check inside for mustard gas? Have we looked under every sink to determine whether anthrax spores are mixed in with the scouring powder? How do we know there isn't nuclear fissile material secreted in a hollow bedpost? Or deadly microbes like tularemia or Q fever hidden among the sinus sprays and cough syrups in a lot of Iraqi medicine cabinets? Or long-range mini missiles in the lingerie drawers, tucked among the bras and underpants?

It may be time to pull the weapons hunters out and let some cleaning-obsessed American women have a look around the Iraqi houses. I know some who, in their almost daily efforts, miss nothing. They dust, sweep and vacuum under and behind every piece of furniture, scrub until their arms ache, polish until they drop and generally inspect every corner of the house before, at the day's end, they call it quits.

If the microwave oven turns out to be a manufacturing system for weapons-grade plutonium, they'll know. They will check inside every drawer, shake out every mattress, beat every rug, open every box and spray antibacterial stuff in every room before they are satisfied that the house is danger free.

It's a big job, but consider the advantages. Not only will America be safer for their efforts, but Iraq will be cleaner, and I'm sure they'll thank us for that.

*

Al Martinez's column appears Mondays and Fridays. He's at al.martinez@latimes.com.

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